Mia Brister

It all shattered into a million pieces. That’s what my world felt like after hearing the emergency room doctor tell me I was being admitted into the hospital because my CT scan showed possible tumors.

I was devastated and heartbroken. There was no way I had cancer! I was working my brand new job, just celebrated my one-year anniversary with my boyfriend, and was working out every day and taking care of myself. I was living life like any normal 24-year-old would. But I knew the night sweats, constant itching, fevers, and fatigue weren’t normal and that there was something seriously wrong.

On July 27, 2018, I was officially diagnosed with stage 3B Hodgkin lymphoma. There were tumors in my neck and chest, and it had spread to my liver. I was terrified and all I could think about was what would happen next, and if this was it for me. Treatment started almost immediately. There wasn’t any time to stop and think, everything just started happening so fast. The week I was diagnosed, I had to withdraw from school. To say the least, life was hectic and very much unbalanced at this point.

As time went on, with doctor’s appointments and fertility treatments, I tried to pick up the pieces of my life to mend them back together. Life felt like it was ripped away from me overnight and I couldn’t come to grips with it. Depression and anxiety became my new friends, and I struggled to cope with life in general.

As treatment progressed, my hair began to fall out. I cried for days trying to figure out how I would look without my hair, how people would see me without it. I wondered, would my melon head really look good bald? It crushed me the day I decided to cut and shave it all off. People would reassure me that it was just hair and that it would grow back, but part of my identity was gone. My femininity and sexuality aren’t the same without my long blonde hair. It is still a struggle of mine to get ready for the day and to look in the mirror. This is not because I am unhappy with the way that I look, but because I don’t recognize this girl anymore. She’s different and so much more beautiful now; she’s glowing.

With this diagnosis, I had to find my purpose and knew I would become stronger. After all, this was happening to me for a reason, right? I received so much love from friends and family, it was intoxicating.

Sadly, during this time, I went through a painful breakup. In retrospect, I can be thankful to him and anyone who left me during this journey because it has shown me what love really is. I remind myself that cancer does not make me any less worthy of love, and neither does losing my hair. I am still worthy. Being diagnosed with cancer has made me see the world so differently, much softer and more delicate now.

I continue to pick up the shattered pieces, with intention and actual meaning in doing so. Cancer has taught me to let go of all things no longer serving me a positive and supportive life. I began the journey of falling in love with myself. I live life and do things because they make me happy. I reassure myself that this is just part of my story that I get to share with others, so that I can help them. This is my purpose in life, to help others and show them to love themselves, because we are our biggest commitments.

Taking care of my body and slowing down has been one of my biggest priorities. Life will never be the same for me, and I am okay with that. Cancer will not knock me down and I will show up stronger and better than before. In the end, it’s important to give yourself the love that you want to give to others.

Tell Your Story. Whether you’re a patient, survivor, caregiver, or loved one touched by cancer, your story can have an enormous impact. You can provide hope and inspiration to someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer or a patient undergoing therapy.